Judge allows Mississippi to create state-run court in Black-majority capital city

Judge allows Mississippi to create state-run court in Black-majority capital city

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Despite objections from the NAACP, a federal judge is allowing Mississippi to create a state-run court in Jackson — the state capital where the majority of residents are Black. 

Attorneys from the NAACP filed a lawsuit against Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) and state officials last year, arguing that a new state-run court unfairly targets Jackson residents and would undermine democracy since the state would appoint the new judges.

The judge of the Capitol Complex Improvement District Court would be appointed by the state Supreme Court chief justice, and the prosecutors would be appointed by the state attorney general. Critics have argued that this system would not represent the city’s majority-Black community.

U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate dismissed the requests to block the new court in a filing on Sunday night — just one day before the new law setting up the court went into effect. Wingate said the court was “not persuaded” by the plaintiffs’ motion to halt the creation of the new court.

“None of the Plaintiffs has alleged that he or she is in actual or imminent danger of experiencing any concrete and particularized injury resulting from the establishment of the [Capitol Complex Improvement District] Court or the challenged appointment of a judge or prosecutors for that court,” Wingate wrote.

Reeves signed two bills last year that are at the center of the NAACP lawsuit. House Bill 1020 created the separate legal system for the Capital Complex Improvement District, which is the 17.5 square-mile area surrounding the Capitol building in Jackson. Senate Bill 2343 required those protesting at the state Capitol to get permits with the Capitol Police, which is controlled by the state.

The NAACP argued in its lawsuit that the two laws violate the 14th Amendment by discriminating against the citizens of Jackson.

“In violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, these laws target Jackson’s majority-Black residents on the basis of race for a separate and unequal policing structure and criminal justice system to which no other residents of the State are subjected,” stated the suit, which was filed in April.

A spokesperson for the NAACP said the organization has already appealed the judge’s ruling in the 5th Circuit, which granted an administrative stay on the provisions on House Bill 1020 that would establish the court.

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